The third time was the charm for the Martha Moats Baker 50k! After a lengthy hiatus (the last MMB was held in 2018), we were back in the racing business in 2021. Dam reconstruction closed the vital Tilghman Road in 2019, leading to the cancelation of that year’s run, and of course 2020 was the Year of Everything Being Canceled.
Paul Jacobs led pretty much wire-to-wire to grab the overall win, in a “let’s get this damned thing done” time of 6:22. Second into the finish was Derek Brown, in from Missouri to visit parents in Harrisonburg and to get in some Grindstone training at MMB (a very common phenomenon in any year for this run, but seemingly more so this year). Third overall and among the men was Brad Hawley, who ran the first three sections of the course with his brother, Nate, but then dropped the hammer over Grooms Ridge. Nate was fifth overall, and the Hawleys were sandwiched around fourth place finisher Michael Harms.
First woman to the finish was Grace Fisher, in a “damn that RD and his lousy course directions” time of 7:56. This impressive time by Grace was despite having covered about 3.5 bonus miles. Unfortunately, those bonus miles were off the correct trail down to Tilghman Road, and as a result, she did not complete the MMB course. The first female to the finish who completed the entire course was Chelsea Smith in 8:38. The others on the podium with Chelsea were Jamie Greenawalt in second and a tie for third between Charlene Howard and Emily Clay. Fifth woman Elsa Araujo finished in the TWOT Lot minutes behind Charlene and Emily.
Grace wasn’t the only runner who got off course in what should have been the easiest of the four sections of the course, unfortunately. Only two of the four sections were marked this year. There did not appear to be any runners who experienced issues in those two sections. which were the final two sections of the run (the five mile eastern ridge section between AS 2 and 3; and the Grooms Ridge hellscape that constitutes the final eight mile climb and descent to the finish). Runners without GPS aid and/or turnsheets were generally victimized on the second section as a result of heeding directions offered up by the RD at the first aid station atop Reddish Knob. Two lessons were learned: go to extra lengths to ensure that all the sections are marked in future years, and warn the runners at the pre-race briefing not to heed course navigational advice provided during any briefings by the RD.